Toxic Waste for Halloween


Halloween, somehow, has become a big deal in our neighborhood.  It started well before we moved in and has grown every since.  Our all time record back in 2011 was 1200 visitors, 8 big bags of Costco Candy, 2 fire trucks and 8 firemen… (but that’s a different post).

Over the years, we’ve built up a hand full of fun and interesting props to use at Halloween.  Some are easy to buy and surprisingly effectively, some took a month, CNC machinery, hundreds of dollars and me swearing that I’ll never do Halloween again.

Here is simple prop build that was surprisingly effective and inexpensive to build.  The parts are easy to get if you don’t already have them already.

Radioactive Toxic Waste barrel

Back in 2012, we built out the set for a Toxic Waste Dump (in the front yard).  Wildly successfully, we had everyone helping wear white Tyvek Hazmat suits – a very cheap and authentic costume.

The Radioactive Waste Barrel was built and put into the center of the display.

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First, you need to find a barrel of some sort.  We purchased a new 55 Gallon Steel Barrel, exactly what you would think would be used to store Radioactive waste (and, apparently, a favorite among home wine makers… who knew).

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Next, you want to build a platform for the smoke machine, you want the smoke machine to be about mid way so that you can fill the botton of the barrel with ice and turn it into a huge fog chiller.  That will keep cool the smoke down and give you the effect of thick smoke rolling over the edge and falling to the ground.

For this, I just used a plastic bucket.

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Next, you need a smoke machine.  I used one of our small units that I could control with a timer to turn it on/off at a low frequency.  If you use ice (you should) then, you want to get the smoke under the ice so that it can rise up through the ice and cool itself on the way up.  Some PVC from Home Depot and electrical tape fixed that problem.  Our smoke timer has magnetic strips on the back so easily attaches to the outside of the steel barrel.

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Oh Halloween, start filling the barrel with ice.

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So, we did make one little optimization, we put down a screen and two blocks of dry ice that we had to spare.  We were hoping that the smoke would hit the dry ice and cool itself further.

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The screen is so that the ice can build a platform over the smoke.  What will happen when you turn this on is that the smoke will quickly melt the ice together making a firm block.  You want to avoid the situation of having the ice fall down melt around the pipe and then allow all the smoke to escape without being cooled.  I think our solution worked okay, but could be improved, the easiest path for the smoke will certainly melt the ice around it.  Perhaps dumping a few pounds of ice into the barrel every hour would help?  But how has the time to do that with 1200 kids “asking” for candy?

So fill the rest of the barrel up with ice…

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Now you need lighting.  Two clamp lights from home depot with a pair of green fluorescent E26 bulbs is perfect.

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That’s it!.

Put the lid back on to partially cover the barrel, turn on the timer to give occasional spurts of smoke, and this barrel will ooze radioactive waste all night.

(Oh yeah, print out a clever sign and tape it to the side of the barrel)

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Two hazmat workers warming themselves up next to the radioactive waste barrel…

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And finally, what does it really look like at night?

(the night before, no ice added, still looks good though).


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